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Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 makes it a legal requirement for all commercial organisations with a turnover of £36 million or more to produce an annual Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) will continue to undertake what is required to be socially responsible and to protect the human rights of workers. To this end, this statement will be reviewed each year setting out the steps they have taken to prevent slavery and human trafficking in any part of their business and supply chain.

This statement sets out the actions FLS is taking to understand potential Slavery and Human Trafficking risks relating to our business and supply chain and to take the necessary steps to address these risks. This statement relates to actions and activities undertaken by FLS in the financial year 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.

With a significant presence in the forestry sector, FLS recognises our corporate and legal responsibility to take a robust approach to human trafficking.

Modern slavery: a definition

Modern slavery is an umbrella term that encompasses slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. In Scotland, the legal definition of these offences is set out in the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015; hence where we refer to ‘human trafficking’, this includes the group of offences covered by this Act. The significant characteristic of all forms of human trafficking is that it involves one person depriving another person of their freedom: their freedom to leave one job for another; their freedom to leave one workplace for another; their freedom to control their own life.

Terms and conditions of employment

As an Executive Agency of Scottish Government, FLS employees are civil servants and already have safeguards incorporated into their terms and conditions of employment that assist in preventing some of the activities characteristic of human trafficking. Salaries, for example are paid into individual bank accounts, hourly rates are above the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage, annual leave entitlements are above the statutory minimum detailed in the Working Time Directive and employees have the opportunity to apply to work flexibly to help achieve a better work/life balance.

In addition to favourable employee terms and conditions, we have other measures in place that assist in preventing human trafficking. Every year FLS is independently audited to ensure we are meeting the standards laid out in the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme (UKWAS). Amongst other requirements, the standard sets out employee and contractor’s rights to trade union membership, pay exceeding the statutory national living wage, access to a grievance procedure and relevant measures relating to compliance and conformance (including anti-corruption) and workers’ rights (measuring compliance with workers’ rights legislation).

FLS participates in the Civil Service People Survey on an annual basis to give our colleagues the opportunity to tell us their views about their job, our agency as an employer and any other workplace issues.

Our People Policies and Procedures are developed in consultation with Trade Union representatives and take account of our legal responsibility as an employer to take steps to prevent human trafficking.

Agency structure and supply chains

FLS was established as a new executive agency of the Scottish Government (SG) on 1 April 2019. The Chief Executive is supported by a Director of Land Management, Director of Commercial Development, Director of Net Zero and Director of Corporate Services, in addition to 3 Non-Executive Advisors. Our principle activity is to manage approximately half a million hectares of woodland and associated habitats, across the length and breadth of Scotland, on behalf of Scottish Ministers. This work is carried out by staff working in 5 distinct regions, each headed up by a Regional Manager and employing over 100 staff.

Their work includes the management and delivery of establishing and maintaining new woodland, felling and the sale of timber, restocking, maintaining and protecting existing woodlands, native woodland management, restoration and expansion, wildlife management and conservation, building and maintaining an access infrastructure to those woodlands, buildings management, renewable energy production and managing, developing and promoting access and enjoyment of the land. For more detailed information on our structure and activities please see our Corporate Plan.

Our supply chain includes a large number and broad spectrum of third party suppliers, contractors and our timber purchasing customers, providing both skilled and unskilled work, which can be manual, motor manual or machine based. There are also a significant number of organisations providing FLS with goods that could have either direct (chemicals supplied direct from manufacturer) or multi-tier (laptops with components sourced from across the world) supply chains ranging from but not limited to clothing, hardware, chemicals and equipment. A full list of our contracts is available on Public Contracts Scotland.

Our Procurement Team plays a key role in making sure these wider corporate activities are undertaken correctly and that our contracts and supply chains are risk assessed in respect of human trafficking, with appropriate mitigations taken to address these risks within our supply chains, as far as possible.

Countries of operation and supply

We currently operate in Scotland only. The majority of our land management work and services have shorter supply chains. Only a small number of our suppliers, primarily for IT goods, harvesting machinery and vehicles for example have extended supply chains which reach into other European countries and beyond.

High-risk activities

We consider our highest risk areas for human trafficking within our business to be similar to those experienced internationally. These are in the areas of civil engineering, timber production (harvesting), haulage, new planting, restocking and spraying which are mostly now all carried out on contract.

These activities provide opportunities for the deployment of unfair and discriminatory working conditions and payment and in some areas of work, lower skilled and seasonal workers that are potentially more vulnerable to human trafficking.

A further risk occurs in the procurement of specific goods. For example, when procuring corporate work wear, the supply chains of materials and garments for the clothing sector are often manufactured outwith the EU in countries (e.g. Sri Lanka) that previously have experienced these practices and could continue to be exploited in this way.

Corporate responsibility

Responsibility for the agency's prevention of human trafficking is as follows:

  • Policies: Director of Corporate Services; Head of Finance and Procurement; Head of People and Organisational Development.
  • Risk assessments: Health, Safety and Wellbeing. It is recognised that across the world the forestry sector is not free from human trafficking and that some of the work carried out in our woodlands (eg planting, harvesting) could provide opportunities for people exploitation.
  • Investigations/due diligence: Procurement Team and Contract Managers. When procuring goods and/or services a User Intelligence Group (UIG) is set up. This includes a mix of procurement and technical expert(s) in the area being procured. This group undertakes risk identification and assessment of human trafficking risks in relation to the procurement. They do this by using the sustainable procurement tools and guidance that have been designed to help public bodies comply with policy and legislation, including how to take an ethical approach in their procurement activity. These were updated in September 2018 to ensure they take account of human rights considerations including the UN Guiding Principles and human trafficking and exploitation. They will subsequently ensure the correct specification is included in the tender and contract and that policy statements, certification or other items, indicating preventive action taken in relation to human trafficking, are supplied prior to any engagement. Where appropriate, contracts also contain third party auditing or other due diligence measures relating to human trafficking. An FLS Procurement Strategy and associated policy and compliance statements has been developed, which outlines the steps we will take to ensure departmental compliance with Scottish and wider European law on procurement and the prevention of human trafficking.
  • Training and corporate knowledge: HR and Learning and Development Teams (collectively known as the People Team) are required to maintain a good working knowledge of employment law, including people trafficking and ensure this is reflected in our policies and procedures and in any communications that are disseminated to employees. The People Team have several independent sources of legal advice on specific topics which are used when required.

Relevant policies

Our policies that set out our approach to the risk of modern slavery and steps to be taken to prevent slavery and human trafficking in its operations are listed below:

  • Whistleblowing policy: we encourage all our employees and former employees to report any suspected wrongdoing related to the direct activities, or the supply chains of the agency. This includes any circumstances that may give rise to an enhanced risk of slavery or human trafficking. FLS Whistleblowing Procedure is designed to make it easy for employees to make disclosures, without fear of retaliation. Employees and former employees who have concerns can report suspected wrongdoing through their Line Manager, Head of Function, Chief Executive or a Nominated Officer.
  • Civil Service Code: The Civil Service Code sets out the actions and behaviours expected of employees when at work or representing the Agency. We strive to maintain the highest standards of employee conduct and ethical behaviour in how we operate as a business and in managing our supply chain.
  • Supplier Code of Conduct: FLS is committed to ensuring that its suppliers adhere to the highest standards of ethics. Suppliers are required to demonstrate they provide safe working conditions where necessary, treat workers with dignity and respect, and act ethically and within the law, in their use of labour. We work with suppliers to ensure they meet the standards of the code and improve their workers’ conditions. Customers and contractors are able to report their concerns through the FLS Complaints Procedure, if they feel a more informal approach through the contract manager is inappropriate.

Due diligence

We undertake due diligence when considering taking on new suppliers and regularly review our existing suppliers. These steps include:

  • mapping the supply chain broadly on a contract by contract basis to assess particular product or geographical risks of human trafficking;
  • evaluating the human trafficking risks of each new supplier by using the tools provided within the SPPN [this may be part of a more general human rights or labour rights assessment];
  • assuring appropriate supplier audits or assessments through a third-party auditor as detailed on the now agreed work wear contract, which has a greater degree of focus on human trafficking where general risks were identified; and
  • having appropriate optional termination clauses within our contracts, allowing us to take action where necessary. To date this action has not been required.

Actions taken

The Human Trafficking Working Group meets on a regular basis and is engaged in regularly promoting colleague awareness and signposting sources of support for dealing with any potential instances of slavery and human trafficking.

In addition the group monitors existing legislation and adapts best practice to ensure compliance with reviews or updates to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015.

We reflected on progress made since our last statement and determined what activities we wanted to engage in during the period 2021/22, that would further support and equip colleagues in recognising and reporting instances of slavery and human trafficking in our supply chains and workplace.

During this reporting period:

  • a bespoke e-learning module was developed for FLS staff and launched in October 2021;
  • 85% of our target audience had completed this training by March 2022 a Communications Strategy was developed;
  • designed with the purpose of targeting managers and site supervisors in higher risk areas such as, forest management, harvesting and civil engineering the ‘Unseen UK’ App was promoted to colleagues involved in higher risk activity, in addition to Human Resources and Procurement colleagues

It is notable that during 2021, many of our business as usual procurement activities that had been paused in 2020 continued like this for a large proportion of the year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In preparing for an upturn in these areas in 2022  we took proportionate mitigating actions when drafting the required specifications for work in areas which we feel could pose a higher risk of human trafficking. 

Additional actions were taken to support procurement activity:

  • we continued to implement measures set out in Reducing the Risk of Human Trafficking and Exploitation in the Performance of Public Contracts: SPPN 3/2020. In this context, a number of goods and services were re-tendered throughout the year with measures set out in this SPPN being incorporated on a case by case basis, where relevant and proportionate. Goods and services considered most as risk, where additional criteria and checks were incorporated, included:
    • Woodland Creation DPS Tender
    • Forest Management Operations and Invasive Vegetation Control
    • Plant Lifting Machines
    • Harvesting
  • new contracts included clauses highlighting the requirement to comply with environmental, social and employment law and the consequence of breaches in these areas.
  • bidder due diligence was carried out as part and parcel of our procurement process when tendering for work assessed as higher risk, involving supply chains both directly and indirectly through possible sub-contractor routes.
  • members of our Procurement Team undertook annual Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) refresher training on Ethical Procurement and Supply; including topics such as Human Trafficking, Forced Labour, Bribery and Corruption

FLS Executive Team approval

This statement was approved on 7 October 2022 by the FLS Executive Team, and most recently updated on 23 September 2022. It is reviewed and updated annually.

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